Zac Hanson talks about becoming a musician at six, respecting Paul Simon, and posting on Twitter
By Angela Barbuti
In 1998, the Hanson brothers made their Grammy debut at Radio City Music Hall. All under 20-years-old at the time, the boys were nominated in an impressive three categories. Now the men, who are all grown up with families of their own, are back in New York City again on June 17th and 18th. Their two-night concert at Irving Plaza will include the band’s 21st birthday celebration where fans will hear classics like “MMMBop,” as well as tracks off their new album, Anthem. I spoke to the youngest brother, Zac, 27, who took time out from helping to run a record label, to fill us in on what Hanson has been up to.
You’re from Tulsa, Oklahoma. What’s it like for you to play a New York show?
New York has always been an insanely good place for us to play. We have so many fans in the Northeast in particular, and NY has always been a hub of fandom that has been unique for us and is still special.
What can you tell us about this concert?
The 21st Birthday Show is celebrating everything we’ve done in the last 21 years. The next night will be premiering a lot of music from the new album. It’s a cool time whenever you’re at this stage in an album. This one feels a little more important, just because of where we are as a band.
Both nights at Irving Plaza sold out pretty quickly.
[Laughs] Yeah, like I said, we have amazing fans in NY and they obviously wanted to come out.
What is the demographic at your shows?
There’s a core group of fans that you expect to see at a Hanson show. It’s probably 80:20 female to male, ages 25-30. It’s really the first people we first connected with; the people who were 12 when I was 12, preteens when our first record came out. It’s cool to see so many who’ve grown up with you – and gotten married, moved jobs, states, countries – that are there.
What do you remember about the 1998 Grammys?
I think it was one of the last ones they did at Radio City. Soy bomb, Kelsey Grammer. Not because we were associated with it, but I really think it was one of the last classy, great Grammys. After that, they transitioned into really where it is now, which is Staples Center and this huge music-montage event. It’s not that it isn’t enjoyable to watch on some level, but it’s become more of a spectacle.
You guys are all married and amongst you have a total of nine children! Do they have your musical talent?
If you count them collectively [laughs] yes, I think there are nine. It’s undeniable that there’s a certain level of musicality within the kids just because they’re surrounded by it and given the opportunity to use those tools constantly. They have a door open for them to feel like creativity is really something they can pursue. Whether they’ll do it or not is still up in the air. Taylor’s kids – his three oldest – have started to sit down and write a song or mimic music they hear on the radio or the back catalogue of dad’s old records.
How does writing music change now that you all have your own families?
We started the band when I was six. We’ve always been very involved in everything-written all the songs, co-produced, or produced basically every record. That complicates the process as we get older. There are a lot more things that are requiring your personal, immediate attention – having to pick up the kids at school to running the record label.
What are the challenges to being in a band with your brothers? Do you fight?
To be honest, the last five or ten years since we formed a label has been our most tumultuous time as a band. As I said before, there are so many more things in the way – responsibilities in our lives that create a barrier in your relationship as writers, musicians, and brothers. We started this record, and then stopped because there was too much conflict over the music. Something that was instilled in us early on – through our parents and being in the band so young – was that there are going to be problems. The only real problem is if you’re not willing to work through them. It’s not a question of whether you’ll fight, but if you’ll be man enough to get over it.
So who decides what to Tweet out of the three of you?
[Laughs] No one. If you follow Hanson, every once in a while you’ll think – why did they say that? We write our own stuff and also have people who work for us post when we need that to happen. If there’s an Instagram, it’s Taylor. We’ve always felt it was important to represent yourself. That’s part of our mystique by not making it too much of a machine that it still is personal. Like, “That actually was his misspelling. Wow, he does not know how to spell.”
Other than Hanson, what are some bands on your IPod?
Gotye. That was one of the last records I heard that I thought was really cool sounding. I also listen to classic artists. When you listen to a Paul Simon record, you think, how do I write lyrics like that? Fit and the Tantrums are all over our new record. We’re all big fans of them.
The new video for “Get the Girl Back” features Kat Dennings. I read an interview with her where she said she is a huge fan of your music.
We saw that too. It was the beginning of our friendship. We reached out and said, “How do we do something together?” It’s just a mutual respect of each other. Both Kat and Nikki Reed [who is also in the video] expressed really liking our music and we all thought they were really cool and liked their movies. They did an amazing job.
What is your favorite song from your entire catalogue?
Right now I would pick a song off the new record just cause it’s most present for me. There’s a song called “You Can’t Stop Us,” which was really fun to write. It could be about a thousand things of the moment. It’s been really interesting to talk to fans about what it can be about. It’s really cool to see your music morph into everyone’s life and perspective.
To learn more about Hanson, visit www.hanson.net
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